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The Fern Sidman Commentaries:

We are living in dangerous times. The scourge of terrorism crouches outside our doorways as does the dramatic escalation of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment. A madman in Iran threatens Israel and the free world with his expanding nuclear arsenal, while ex-presidents write books excoriating Israel for attempting to defend herself. There is no question that it is open season on Jews, and that little strip of land in the Middle East called Israel. While the world remains silent in the face of blatant and overt Jew hatred, we can only draw a frightening parallel to Europe of 1938.

While we are concerned for our survival as Jews and for the future of Israel, we now turn our attentions to one person. One Jew, who was victimized by betrayal and deceit. As Jews, we are enjoined by our G-d and our Torah to value and cherish human life and to hold it sacrosanct for all eternity. We are commanded to join together in unity to fulfill the holy precept of redeeming the imprisoned. While the world may at times exert efforts for the collective good, while dismissing the individual, it is the obligation and duty of the Jew, even in dangerous times to save just one life. For each life is an entire world and it stands as a solitary reminder of our future as a people and a nation.

Today, the plight of Jewish prisoner, Jonathan Pollard compels us to take action and to review the facts of his case. It all began in 1983 when Jonathan Pollard was employed as a civilian American Naval intelligence analyst based in Washington, DC. Pollard discovered that information vital to Israel’s security was being deliberately withheld by certain elements within the US national security establishment. Israel was legally entitled to this vital security information according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. The information being withheld from Israel included Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capabilities - being developed for use against Israel. It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

When Pollard questioned his superiors as to why this information was not being disclosed to Israel as had been promised he was told to mind his business. Subsequently, he learned that the objective of suppressing this information to Israel was to severely curtail Israel’s ability to act independently in defense of her own enemies. Pollard did everything in his power to have the legal flow of information to Israel restored. When his efforts met no success, he began to give the information to Israel directly. Pollard was an ideologue, not a mercenary. The FBI concluded after nine months of polygraphing that Pollard acted for ideological reasons only, not for profit. This fact was recognized by the sentencing judge who declined to fine Pollard.

In 1985, Jonathan Pollard was arrested by the FBI. Pollard never had a trial. At the request of both the US and Israeli governments, he entered into a plea agreement, which spared both governments a long, difficult, expensive and potentially embarrassing trial. And this is where the betrayal began. Pollard fulfilled his end of the plea agreement, cooperating fully with the prosecution. Nevertheless, Pollard received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled - in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government. Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States, nor was he indicted for compromising codes, agents or war plans and he was never charged with treason. He was indicted on only one charge which was one count of passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States.

No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally - only Jonathan Pollard. The median sentence for this offense is two to four years. Even agents who have committed far more serious offenses on behalf of hostile nations have not received such a harsh sentence.

Since 1995, within the context of the peace process, the US has repeatedly exploited the plight of Jonathan Pollard to extract heavy concessions from Israel. Despite express promises made by the United States to Israel, Pollard remains in jail. Although President Clinton promised late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin that he would release Pollard as part of a Middle East peace settlement, Clinton refused to honor his promise after Rabin was assassinated. The Wye Plantation summit is a prime example of US exploitation of Jonathan Pollard. Both before and again during the Wye summit negotiations in the fall of 1998, President Clinton promised to release Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was the deal-maker at Wye which enabled the accords to be completed. At the last minute, as the Wye Accords signing ceremony was about to take place in Washington, Clinton reneged on Pollard’s release, creating a storm of negative publicity for Israel.

The facts speak for themselves. Jonathan Pollard is a man betrayed by his country. Jonathan Pollard is man who has languished in the federal prison system for 22 years and is in failing health. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us, to raise high the banner of freedom for Jonathan Pollard. It is time to express our outrage and indignation at this travesty of justice. It is time to come together, to unite to save one life, one person, one Jew who has been scapegoated by the world.

The first and most important step that we can take is to beseech the Almighty G-d of Israel on behalf of Jonathan Pollard. We can storm the gates of Heaven with our heartfelt prayers for our brother, Jonathan. We can organize Tehillim groups in the name of Yohanatan ben Malka. We can shed our tears and ask G-d for mercy and compassion for Jonathan and for his speedy release. Above all, we must remain cognizant of the fact that it only through the hand of Hashem will we see true justice.

Additionally, we can also devote our time to participating in a wide variety of activities that will bring the spotlight on Jonathan Pollard’s case. According to an Arutz Sheva news service report of February 6, 2007, it states, "American Jewish organizations have organized a massive nationwide campaign to call the White House every afternoon for the next two months and request/demand freedom for Pollard. The campaign is to last, if it does not succeed in attaining its goal beforehand, until after Passover, the holiday of freedom." The campaign, spearheaded by the National Council of Young Israel, is predicated on the fact that the White House tallies all incoming calls, "and so every single phone call makes a difference." A statement issued by Young Israel Executive Vice President Rabbi Pesach Lerner asks citizens concerned by Pollard’s plight to "call daily between the hours of 11-2 pm EST, and encourage their family members and friends to do the same. Callers are reminded to expect the lines to be busy and to keep calling until they get through.” The White House phone number is 1-202-456-1414."

Moreover, the report goes on to say that, "the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America (the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah), Agudath Israel’s Rabbinic Presidium, and nearly 100 members of its Conference of Synagogue Rabbis have issued a declaration calling on “all caring Jews… to convey the message to President Bush that Mr. Pollard has served long enough, and that the time has come to free him." Agudath Israel states that Pollard’s plight "demands our urgent attention. [His] life sentence - a penalty far more severe than that imposed upon others who committed similar or even more serious crimes - is difficult to comprehend… At this time, it appears that all legal avenues through the judicial system have been shut off."

"Only the President of the United States, by granting Mr. Pollard executive clemency, can save him from spending the rest of his life behind bars," Agudath Israel pleads.

Other groups are planning worldwide simultaneous demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience on Thursday, February 8th. Before it is too late, get involved now. Contact your local synagogue and ask the Rabbi to speak of Jonathan’s plight during his sermon. Work towards educating young people about Jonathan Pollard and assist in galvanizing them to participate in demonstrations. Make phone calls, write letters to your elected officials, but above all, do not be silent. We are taught that there are sins of commission and sins of omission in this world. Let us not be guilty of doing nothing, when we had every opportunity to do something significant and potent on behalf of a brother, on behalf of our brother Jonathan. In the merit of our actions and prayers may the Almighty G-d of Israel have mercy on Jonathan Pollard and upon His people, Israel.

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